To the Ancient Egyptians, frogs symbolized life and fertility, the proof of this was the annual inundation of the Nile which brought forth fertility to the barren lands as well as the emergence of millions of frogs. In very ancient Egyptian legends, frogs were the most primeval gods; the gods, Heh, Kek, Nau and Amen were all depicted with the head of a frog while their consort goddesses were depicted with the head of a serpent. The eight, or Ogdoad, were believed to have helped with the creation of the world.
The Egyptian goddess Heqet is depicted either as a frog-headed woman or as a frog. She is associated with the development of the fetus in the womb, birth and resurrection. Perhaps some of these associations may have come from seeing how frogs were spontaneously “birthed” from the mud after long periods of hibernation. Her name can also be spelled as Heqet, Heqat, Hekit, Heket, Hegit, and Heget. It has been suggested that her name was probably pronounced “Haqatat” and some scholars believe her later Greek counterpart could be the goddess Hecate.
The beginning of Heqet’s worship dates to the early dynastic period (3000 BCE or earlier). Her name was mentioned on a stela of Wepemnofret and in the Pyramid Texts. In an ascension spell from the Pyramid Texts (utterance 539), the “hinder-parts” of the king are identified with Heqet, perhaps because of the frog’s talent for jumping. The Coffin Text spell 175, states “I am the Great One whom Heqet created, who gathered together these bones of Osiris,” identifying the formation of the body prior to birth with the reconstitution of Osiris, which takes place in a marshy setting. As the story of Osiris developed, it was said that Heqet breathed life into the new body at birth, as she was the goddess of the last moments of birth. As the birth of Horus became more associated with the resurrection of Osiris, Heqet’s role also became closely associated with resurrection.
As a fertility goddess, she is associated with the final stages of the inundation of the Nile, the germination of corn and the final stages of a woman’s labor and childbirth. With this she gained the title “She Who Hastens the Birth” during the Middle Kingdom. In the Westcar Papyrus, Heqet is one of the deities (the others being Isis, Nephthys, Meskhenet and Khnum) who are sent by Re to hasten the delivery of the royal mother Reddjedet .
On significant murals and sculptures that still exist, Heqet is shown as the wife and consort of Khnum, the god of creation. He created all life through his potter’s wheel and Heqet breathed life into every being before placing them into their mother’s womb. On the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut’s birth colonnade, Heqet and Khnum are depicted with Heqet holding the ankh to the infant Hatshepsut and her ka.
Some claim that Egyptian midwives called themselves the Servants of Heqet (even though no ancient Egyptian term for “midwife” is known), and that Heqet’s priestesses were trained in midwifery. Women often wore amulets of her during childbirth, as a frog, sitting in a lotus. In addition to amulets for protection during childbirth, Heqet appears frequently on ivory magical wands, indicating that she is a protector of health and home in general.
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